IntrepidWoman's Journey

Death by Divorce

Posted on: May 3, 2012

Divorce is like death in many ways but can actually be worse. It is the breakdown of a couple or too often, a family, where one person leaves. When a person dies, you go through the four stages;  denial, depression, anger, acceptance and then your life is never the same again; but you go on, cherishing your memories of the past. In a divorce, you go through the same emotions, but everyone is still out there. Every component of their afterlife changes. The marriage and family unit has died, but life goes on with everyone surrounded by the pieces of what once was.  Death is mourning the loss of a person and divorce is mourning the loss of an entire family unit while watching your chosen mate go on with their life. If you have children, you are never completely divorced. There is no erasing and starting over with a clean slate.

First, the decision by one person to divorce is made with a sense of relief. You can’t do this anymore. You are not going to do this anymore. You are not happy. You may have found someone else. You think it will be simple and straightforward to end the marriage.

In the heated discussions that start with hurt and disbelief, you think that the other person is going to be ‘fair’ about everything. The Leaver expects good, mature decisions that will benefit both. The Left gets angry and does not want the life they have built together to be chopped up into chunks and dispersed. Cooperation is not fifty-fifty. You do not have like minds.

Sometimes, one or the other party does not realize immediately that everything they have built together must be divided. You can’t keep something just because you like it. The other person has the same right to it! This often means it all has to be sold.

Both want what is right for the children, but it is the children who pay the ultimate price. They lose the stability of one home. They often lose their bedroom and their neighborhood. They lose big family Christmases. They lose mom and dad loving each other and loving them as a unit. Often, and soon, one parent is replaced by another adult at the breakfast table,  and nothing is ever the same again. There are more people in the equation now. The adults are just trying to find that allusive thing called happiness. New relationships often don’t go any smoother than the original marriage did. Bottom line is never to expect your partner to make you happy. It is up to you to make yourself happy, and there are more people to consider than just yourself in life. Children pay the price every step of the way through divorce and creating a new family unit.

Getting married is too easy and divorce is not easy at all. Watching the happy couple walk down the isle and pledge ‘til death do us part, in sickness and in health, for richer or poorer’ is such a happy occasion. So many say the words without believing them or considering the actual impact of them. Others don’t even say these words in the ceremony anymore. Some time goes by and so many jump ship because life is not what they thought it would be.

No one ever stops to consider that the problem might not be the other person. It might be the lifestyle that is the norm today. Both parents racing on the hamster wheel, juggling high demand jobs and daycare, dance classes and hockey practices, etc.. They don’t sit down to family meals. They don’t spend time together laughing over a board game or all sitting in the same room reading or sharing their day. She runs off for a week with girl friends. Then he goes off with the boys.

The pressure is on to have the most, be the best and get it all done in record time. They know they are not happy. They fight over so many issues – finances, helping with household chores, ideologies about child raising. They expect their mate to complete them. Ah, the negative influence of television/movies. It will never be like it is in the movies. There is no such thing as “You complete me.”

If you start as friends, you need to keep the friendship alive. You must keep communication open. You should respect that the other person can have their own opinion and that yours is not the definitive one. You should always negotiate the important things. Your way is not always the best way.

You certainly should love your children above all else. Their gene pool is the combination of you both. They deserve security and love. If you cannot commit to your partner anymore, at least commit to your children. The concept of your happiness being number one priority is nothing but selfishness and immaturity. Yes, you deserve some time to yourself and for yourself, but arrange it so that it does not take away from the family unit. Children are not to blame for your marriage breakdown, but somehow they are often made to feel like it is their fault.  It is a heavy burden to place on children. When you divorce, it is often the end of their childhood, whether they are five or fifteen. There is no ‘good’ age for children to handle divorce easily.

I write this because divorce is all around me. For the last year, I have watched a good friend go through the pain of divorce. He is the father of two young daughters. He has always provided well for his family and always put them first. They appeared in public to be the perfect family. Then his wife went through a hysterectomy and became discontented with her life in general. She decided she was not happy and that divorce was the answer. He has cried daily for a year, but he has come through this learning a lot about himself and he continues to put his children first. He treats his ex-wife with respect and  has bought her the house of her choice and never questions her requests for money. The other day she said she is ‘stressed’ and was going to see a doctor. It seems she is still unhappy.

I am simplifying this of course, because it always takes two – to make a marriage and to break one. He had his faults, but why was she not willing to work on it with him? She was too willing to throw it all away. She has started dating and has everything the way she wants now, but is still unhappy. He sees his children on the days the court assigned and in between he works and runs and cries.

One of my sons was only three when I divorced. Two weeks after moving from the family home because my ex insisted on keeping it, my wee son woke up crying in the middle of the night. I went into his room to see what was wrong and he said, “I want my daddy”.  I will never forget the pain of that. As much as I had told the boys that the divorce had nothing to do with them and the problem was between the parents, that still left the pain from the death of the family unit. That was 36 years ago and a different time. We were too young and never had discussed what we wanted out of life before marrying. We also just happened to make babies before even talking about whether we wanted to have any. He continued to live the life of a single man while I became a working mother. It seemed easier to leave the marriage and lose the oldest child – my husband, who proudly stated he did not plan to grow up. Cute when he was 17; not so much at 25.

Even though people generally are older before they get married now and choose to have a family, they still get caught up in the competition of bigger, better, best, for themselves and their children. I thought being older might give marriages a better chance of survival, but the downside is that some of these couples come into the relationship expecting to hold on to their sense of self-entitlement. They enjoyed years of giving themselves the best of everything and putting themselves first. It is a shock when babies enter the picture and totally upset their lifestyles.

So I end this with pain in my heart, watching families I know breaking into little pieces. Life’s journey holds lots of pain as well as pleasure. As a single parent during my younger years and now as a grandparent of three precious little children, I am mourning for all couples who choose death by divorce. It might be the hardest decision you make in your life and it needs to be thought out very carefully. A simple question to ask: Am I better off with or without him/her? And just as important: “Are my children better off without our family unit?”


1 Response to "Death by Divorce"

Additional comment: My wee grandson who is almost six and an old soul was visiting yesterday and asking where I lived when I was with grandpa. I explained that we were in the house he has now and that his dad lived there too when he was very little. He asked why I did not live there now, and I explained how some people don’t stay married.
His response, “That’s because some people just get it and some don’t”. Then he smiled his dazzling smile and looked into my eyes, saying, “My mom and dad get it.”

So wise. If only more people ‘got it’.

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